Benjamin T. Mitchell

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Benjamin Thomas Mitchell was an early convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He assisted in the construction of buildings in Nauvoo, Illinois, and Salt Lake City, Utah. Most notably, he was a stone mason for the Nauvoo Temple and sculpted the first sunstone. It is presumed that one of the original 30 sunstones on display at the Smithsonian American History Museum was likely sculpted by Mitchell because it bears a chiseled “M” on the upper left-hand corner. He also served as stone mason/foreman for the Salt Lake Temple. He helped draw up plans for the temple and helped determine whether sandstone or granite should be used in the foundation. He was in charge of the stone cutting between 1861 and 1863.

Mitchell carved the Salt Lake City Meridian Marker and also assisted with the construction of the Deseret National Bank building, ZCMI, the courthouse, and the old city jail.

He was born on January 12, 1816, in Munch township, Pennsylvania. His journal details his early life and conversion to the gospel:

“When I was about two years old father moved to Ohio on the western reserve where I was raised in the backwoods without a chance of education until I was seventeen and then went and learned the stone-cutters trade with a man by the name of Brown. Then I went to Akron where I worked at my trade until I was about twenty when I married Sarah Trasback [also spelled Treisback or Greisback] in Apr. 1835.
“The fifteenth day of June following, I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by Bro. Millet and in about one year after that I sold my property and sent some means by Singley to Missouri to buy land and started to go up the next season but on account of the river being very low I was compelled to stop at Madison, Indiana.
“Before spring the word came that the saints were driven out and scattered and for some time I was unable to learn where they located a gathering place. In the meantime, I moved to Marton Co. Iowa, and bought a farm and made some improvements for about two years. Then Bro. Litts and Henderson came along and told me that the Stake of gathering was at Nauvoo, Illinois.[1]

Mitchell’s first wife died from measles in Nauvoo. He then married Lavinia [Louvina] Buckwalter [Bachwalter]. He also married Caroline Conrad, Lois Judd, Lydia [Mariah] Day, Catherine Jensen [Johnson], and Susannah Houston [Huston] Matlock[2] and had a large posterity of 50 children.[3] Some of his sons cut stones with him for the Salt Lake Temple and the St. George Utah Temple.

Mitchell helped settled Kamas, Utah (then known as (Rhodes’s Valley). He served a mission to Nova Scotia, was ordained a Seventy in Nauvoo and served as a counselor in the 16th quorum, and was a captain in the Heber C. Kimball Company that immigrated to the Salt Lake Valley in 1848. In 1854, he led a second pioneer trek known as the Benjamin T. Mitchell Company. He also served as a bishop in the Salt Lake City 15th ward.

Mitchell passed away on March 9, 1880.

One of remaining original Nauvoo sunstones housed at Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Photo by Christa Woodall